Make sure you focus on this for the MCAT
The MCAT is one of the most important exams you will ever take as a pre-med. That is why it is so important to use your time wisely when preparing for it and to prepare in the most effective way possible. It is definitely important and necessary to do a comprehensive background knowledge review to do well on the MCAT, but also equally as important to learn how to TAKE the test. What I mean by that is you need to grow an intuitive understanding of how questions are asked on the MCAT, how to approach different types of problems, and the kind of answers that the MCAT is looking for. It is absolutely critical to develop your MCAT specific test taking skills during your studying sessions.
As you study for the MCAT, you will begin noticing patterns in the way the questions are asked and the kind of answers associated with them. Each section of the MCAT is approached slightly differently and I will go over in more detail on how to approach each of the four sections in other articles. But for all of the sections, developing MCAT specific test taking skills will certainly help boost your score. Of course you will need the background knowledge and skills to be able to answer them better, but knowing the kind of answers the MCAT is looking for can help make a big difference in choosing the right one. When you are down to just to two answer choices, having developed an intuitive understanding for what is right can be what gets you the right answer. So how do you develop your MCAT test taking skills?
The main method of improving your MCAT specific test taking skills is by simply doing more practice problems. For this, it is important to use practice problems that most simulate the actual MCAT exam, such as the AAMC practice problems, Princeton review practice tests, and Magoosh MCAT practice problems. Using practice problems from resources such as the ExamKrackers 1001 practice problems is useful. However, I found that ExamKrackers was better at helping me review and practice specifically for the content of the MCAT rather than more so how the exam is structured. There is definitely a place for that kind of review in your study, but make sure you spend a good amount of time using the resources I mentioned above in your studying. By studying practice problems that resemble the actual exam you will develop a sense for what the question is asking and how to most effectively tackle it. So make sure to not limit yourself only to reviewing material. For me, I spent a good month or so reviewing material and the rest of my time doing practice problems. And in many ways practice problems are the best way to review material and learn it.
The second method to utilize for improving your MCAT test taking skill is to focus on reviewing why you missed a problem. When I say that, I mean you need to focus on understanding what mistakes did you make in your approach to answering the problem. Did you not refer back to the passage? Did you rush too quickly to answer the question? Did you not read the question carefully enough and misunderstood it? Did you not know the material? Once you know the answer to these questions, you know what causes you to miss questions. This allows you to learn what areas of test taking you need to focus on. It is very important you learn WHY you are missing questions. I encourage you to make an excel sheet or a list in Microsoft word that has all of these questions in it. Next to each question, start making a tally for each time you missed a question for that reason. So as you do your practice tests and you miss questions, just quickly refer back to that document and mark why you missed the question. After a few weeks of doing this you will have a very easy to interpret set of data that will make you aware of something you didn’t notice before. You may have never known or thought it was a big deal before that you didn’t refer back to the passage enough, but after seeing the data you will realize it needs to be fixed. I personally used this message and it helped me notice some mistakes I was making that I was completely unaware of!
So in summary, it is just as important to focus on developing your MCAT specific test taking skills and an intuitive sense for the answers. This is done through practice problems that resemble the real exam and by reviewing why you missed a problem. Go ahead and make a document where you can tally the reasons you miss questions and you will begin noticing trends. Once you know these trends you can fix them and that will help you improve your score. It is incredibly important to analyze what you missed and why. So keep grinding those practice problems and trying to figure out why you miss questions. You will develop amazing MCAT test taking skills in no time!